Nothing looks more interesting than a room that tastefully combines modern and antique decor. New pieces bring novelty, clean lines, updated style, and a modern edge that makes your space relevant. Older pieces add depth and soul—they tell parts of your story and hint at your legacy—and that makes your place like no other.
There are so many reasons to mix old and new as you design the rooms of your home:
- You may be starting with traditional spaces that haven't been updated in years. You like what you have, but you want to update with some fresh details.
- You may have a modern place with all new interiors, but it doesn't quite feel like home. You want to work in some older pieces and personal mementos without losing the clean, spacious look.
- Maybe you love one style but the architecture of your home or apartment is from a whole different era. You want to harmonize with the architecture but not be a slave to it.
- Replacing everything doesn't make financial sense to you, or environmental sense either.
Mixing Modern and Antique Furniture and Accessories
There's no magic formula for mixing old and new—find the balance that feels right for you. If you love antiques and have wonderful collections of china, glass and fabrics handed down from parents and grandparents, you'll probably lean toward the old, say 75%.
But consider what happens when you take a traditional living room and switch out an old rug for a new one with a geometric pattern that picks up on the colors of your favorite vases. Swap out a dark wood coffee table for a glass-topped one that adds a new spaciousness to the room. Take the fussy old frame from the mirror over your buffet and try something sleek, like MirrorMate's Highline Slim Champagne Gold Frame.
Suddenly, a tired space has new life!
How to Decorate With Antiques in a Modern Style
On the other hand, you might have a new space that you want to keep simple and minimal, with warm neutrals and sleek, curved furniture. You will probably want at least 75% new furniture and accessories.
But consider the added interest when a collection of vintage family photos in a variety of black frames appears over your mantle, and an old black sewing machine table rests against a wall near your front door topped with a sleek bowl to hold your keys. Add to the coffee table a woven placemat you picked up at a market on a southwest vacation, and now your room has character that you just can't buy new.
How to Keep Harmony as You Mix Things Up With Modern and Antique Décor
Keeping some unity within the vintage mix will keep your décor from clashing or looking random.
The easiest way to unify is always with color. You can paint or reupholster vintage furniture to conform to a dominant color, or a scheme of one dominant color and one or two secondary colors.
Another way to add cohesion to your whole house is to settle on a rough percentage of vintage to modern furniture and accessories in each room. Without being obvious, it will give the rooms a similar vibe.
Paying attention to scale is also important. Balance and proportion are always key to good design, and will give your rooms a put-together look even as you're mixing up old and new. If the cool industrial lamp is too big and chunky for the fine, spindly lines of your antique side table, both will look out of place. But move the lamp to one side of your solid buffet, and it belongs. Anchor your side table with a plant at its base and a modern vase that's smaller than the lamp, and it looks just right.
More Ideas for Mixing Old and New
As you put together a space combining contemporary and vintage looks, keep the following ideas in mind:
1. Start Small
If you're new to the idea of modernizing or adding older pieces to your spaces, try a little room first. A bathroom is a great place to try mixing things up without a huge commitment. If you have a basic builder-grade mirror, try framing it with a do-it-yourself kit from MirrorMate frame. Easy to install in minutes, there are a variety of styles including rustic weathered hues, glam golds, and contemporary sleek wood tones. If you need help deciding which frame to use, they offer free design advice.
For example, a bathroom with a retro decor style (you've seen those black and pink tiles climbing up the walls!) can be elevated with some modern gold and black touches, such as MirrorMate's Broadway Slim Gold Frame, with black edges.
2. Remember Lighting
Light fixtures are the finishing touch to a space. It is amazing how a new fixture can completely change the perceived age of space. If you want to give your home a more contemporary look, consider adding new sconces above your bathroom mirrors, new pendants over a kitchen island, or a new chandelier in the dining room.
Remember, it's okay to mix finishes. The light fixture doesn't need to match your faucets, cabinet hardware, or door knobs. It can be a statement piece that stands out in the room.
3. Have Fun With Antiques
Even if something's over 100 years old—the definition of antique—there's no law against giving it a new surface, or even a whole new purpose. While some pieces are just too valuable to play with, there are plenty of dark, old early 20th-century wood buffets and dressers that perk right up with a coat of light paint.
And who said an old wardrobe can't start a second career? I have a vintage rattan one with added shelves standing in my dining room, full of linens. Church pews make wonderful benches for long tables or hallways, an antique door can become a tabletop, and an old countertop scale can hold two plants, adding levels to a display.
My mother once found a gorgeous, old couch, intricately carved, and gave it a whole new life by replacing its springs and having it reupholstered in a boucle fabric of fine stripes in blue, green, and turquoise. We thought she was a little crazy until we saw the finished product, which looked wonderful.
Enjoy the Best of the Old and New in Your Home
You may be thinking big, like bringing in a statement piece such as a chandelier, a Persian carpet, or an antique china cabinet. You may be starting small, such as switching out knick-knacks, buying new pillows, or upgrading a mirror with a new MirrorMate frame. Either way, your spaces will take on a new vitality as you find your perfect blend of old and new.